Alex McLeish knows his Villa team will need to up their game tomorrow afternoon against newly promoted and ambitious Queens Park Rangers.
The midweek no show against Bolton Wanderers in the Carling Cup not only resulted in elimination from the competition but also raised question marks over the team`s lack of attacking intent. It took till the 88th minute for Villa to accumulate a shot on goal, coming from a centre-back in James Collins.
Nevertheless, that was the club`s first defeat of the season. Although it still does not make up for what transpired performance wise on Tuesday night, we still find ourselves undefeated in the league and with a point or two to prove with the SKY cameras beaming us across all four corners of the country.
QPR have just come of the back of an impressive 3-0 victory away to Wolverhampton Wanderers where their marquee recruits Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips are beginning to sparkle. Manager Neil Warnock is allowing his players to express themselves on the pitch, portraying a free-flowing brand of football. With owner Tony Fernandes looking to pour his money into the club over the coming years, the future looks promisingly bright for the West Londoners.
Big Eck has called on his players to deliver in the final third – notably with the final ball. A lack of creativity is evidently lacking at present and the gaffer is eager for the issue to be resolved.
He told AVTV:
‘It is just not about one or two forwards. We have to get service to the last line and create chances.`
‘There have been opportunities but the final ball is what has frustrated me the most. We have got into good areas but the final ball has been disappointing or we’ve not retained it or we’ve given it away cheaply.
‘A lot of that is to do with confidence, belief and experience as well.`
Meanwhile, Darren Bent – who is missing tomorrow through injury – admits that the team have yet to find a suitable formation.
‘We are defending well and working well as a team but we have to find a balance.` he said.
‘We have to find the right formation for the team to be solid and offensive. The gaffer is looking at different alternatives.
‘It is about finding a system where we are a lot more dangerous and potent. When you are a striker you are used to scoring left, right and centre and when the ball is not coming and you are not getting as many opportunities it is going to play on your mind. But I am a team player and as long as the team is doing well I won`t grumble.`
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Kieron Dyer is the only notable absentee for the Super Hoops.
Incidentally Luke Young is line to face the club he left in the summer after three years of service.
Player to watch: Shaun Wright-Phillips
The little man is once again beginning to find his best form since joining the club from Manchester City in the summer.
He is already becoming a favourite at Loftus Road with his jinking runs and quick feet which are giving opposition full-backs the run around.
He will be a handful tomorrow!
Aston Villa Team News:
McLeish confirmed in his pre-match presser that Bent is out due to a groin problem. Emile Heskey is also out but there is a chance Jermaine Jenas will make his debut.
‘Bent is still out, Jenas is 50/50 and Heskey is still out.` told McLeish.
‘They are three fairly experienced players which slightly depletes the squad and makes the resources diminish a little bit.
‘But we are still going to go to QPR with confidence and to try and bring back the points.`
Player to watch: Gabriel Agbonlahor
Gabby has been on fire in claret and blue this season. Not only is he getting his fair share of the goals, his work ethic is second to none and is demonstrating just how much of an asset he is to this team.
He netted the opener against Newcastle United last weekend, and the all important equaliser against Everton a week prior.
Match Facts & Stats
QPR have never lost to Villa at home in the Premier League.
The R’s are also yet to score at Loftus Road this season.
I am sure there will be no repeat of the performance on Tuesday and McLeish will rally his troops in proving a few doubters wrong with a performance. Nevertheless, we are coming up against a confident and brash QPR who will fancy their chances at home against just about anyone. It is vital we don`t succumb to pressure in the middle of the park and sit too deep as the likes of Wright-Phillips and Adel Taarabt will be looking to get in behind the defence and cause havoc. Even so, I still fancy us to sneak the win. Going for a 2-1 Villa victory!
Wigan Athletic at home on Saturday October 1st.